Four people died in two separate fires in the small town of Laurel, Nebraska on Thursday. The police initially suspected third-party negligence as the cause of the incident when they began their investigation.
Officers were called to an explosion at an apartment building at 209 Elm Street around 3 a.m. Thursday, according to Col. John Bolduc of the State Patrol. One person was found dead in the house.
Authorities were unable to determine the cause of death, although witnesses reportedly heard gunshots. The victim was a 53-year-old woman named Michele Ebeling.
As firefighters put out the fire, word spread of another fire at 503 Elm Street, about five blocks away, where authorities discovered three bodies. The victims, who all lived in the same house, were named Gene Twiford (86), Janet Twiford (85) and Dana Twiford (55).
Col. John Baldock alleges that foul play may have been at play in the deaths.
He added that fire investigators may have suspected the use of fire accelerants in both houses.
Nebraska State Police are searching for a suspect
Regarding the incident, the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) has admitted it is looking for one or more people. An African American man was spotted leaving the area in a silver sedan, authorities were reported.
In a press conference, Col. Baldock stated:
Despite his refusal to categorize the offences, he stated:
It would be far-fetched to say there is no link between the two fires that have killed people, but the investigation is still at a very early stage. Four people died at multiple crime scenes, but we haven’t classified it yet.
Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda, who lives nearby, also commented on the situation.
“This is a small, safe neighborhood. Although everyone in this town knows everyone, we’re not sure if they knew each other. People should contact the state patrol if they notice anything unusual.
Such cases are unusual in Laurel, a small town in the state of Nebraska. Multiple comparable events on the same night is a strange phenomenon that clearly points to criminal activity.
However, it is important to note that there has recently been an increase in fire related crimes as a number of other similar incidents have recently been documented.